Though Guyton has opted to pursue building its own wastewater treatment plant, Effingham County commissioners say the door for future cooperation is still open.
Guyton City Council representatives informed county commissioners they intended to move forward with their own plans for a wastewater treatment plant. County commissioners and Guyton council members were scheduled to embark on small scale talks on the possibility of the city tying into the county’s wastewater treatment plant.
But near the end of the initial meeting, Guyton’s representatives said their bond package meant they have to move forward with their own plans, Commissioner Vera Jones said.
“It was very disappointing,” Jones said. “We feel like we started to mend some bridges.”
Commissioners and council members agreed at a June 7 workshop to begin talks on what it would take for the city to tie into the county’s 1 million gallons per day wastewater treatment plant. The county and the city had sent proposals back and forth until the service delivery strategy negotiations brought that process to a standstill.
“If there was a different route or a cheaper pipe to use, we were willing to do that,” Jones said.
Guyton City Council member Ulysses Eaton, who was part of the city’s delegation to the small-group talks, said council members reviewed all their options and determined building their own plant made better business sense.
“The cost for the plant was less than the infrastructure to go to the county’s wastewater treatment plant,” he said. “It was a hard decision for me, personally. I hear from people we don’t need any more debt.”
Guyton has estimated that building its own plant will cost about $4.7 million but tying into the county’s system would cost $5.2 million on the lines alone.
“We would have also have to buy capacity, which would push it to $7 million to $8 million,” Eaton said.
Though the city understands the county’s system needs customers, Eaton added the city, at some point, would have to build its system, if Effingham experiences another building boom. Doing it now instead of waiting also is more financially feasible.
“We felt like that was cut and dried,” he said. “It would cost less to build our own plant. We felt for the dollar value, it was better to build.”
The planned wastewater treatment plant will be smaller in size than original plans. It will be a 250,000 gallons per day plant with a three-pond system for a sprayfield. Eaton was adamant it would not discharge into the Ogeechee River.
“It absolutely will not discharge into the Ogeechee River,” he said.
Guyton was awarded a $13.3 million loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority in 2008 and purchased more than 600 acres along Riverside Drive, with plans to build its own wastewater treatment plant there. Guyton also explored securing a loan and a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural and Community Development. But in the delay to get back with the county, the grant went away, Eaton explained. Getting the grant would have made it easier to connect to the county’s system.
The county’s wastewater treatment plant can be expanded up to 20 million gallons per day, and its next step in expansion is 2.5 million gallons per day. Guyton is using about 75,000-80,000 gallons per day in Springfield’s 500,000 gallon per day capacity plant.
Guyton City Council approved a bond issue of more than $9 million last month, and the bonds will go toward the city’s water and sewer debt. The interest rates on the revenue bonds are cheaper than the GEFA loan rates, Eaton added.
Jones wondered if Guyton learned from the county’s experience with having its own wastewater treatment.
“I don’t know if they considered strongly enough what their maintenance and operations costs are going to be in the long-term,” she said.
Regardless of what transpires with Guyton’s own efforts, Jones said the county will be ready to discuss the option of connecting to the county’s system.
“The door is still open on our end,” she said. “If this doesn’t work out, we’re more than willing to see if there’s something we can do. We are definitely open to working with them any way we can.”
Eaton also said the tenor in talks between the county and the city was better than in recent years.
“We did have a positive experience,” he said.